The Music City’s MLS expansion bid got a boost on Thursday, when The Tennessean reported that Nashville Mayor Megan Barry will propose building a new professional soccer stadium at the Nashville Fairgrounds.
The Tennessean reported that plans for the stadium are centered on an MLS expansion team. It’s not clear if USL club Nashville SC, scheduled to begin play next year, could play at the stadium, which doesn’t yet have a price tag.
Barry’s plan, which will include upgrades to Fairgrounds Speedway, will reportedly be formally announced on Monday, the paper reported.
Nashville was acknowledged by the league in December as one of 10 markets vying for four expansion spots. The league will select two new expansion clubs in 2017, with those teams set to begin MLS play by 2020. Two more teams, taking the league to 28 total clubs, will be announced at a later date.
Nashville businessmen John Ingram and Bill Hagerty are leading a local ownership group that is working to submit a formal expansion application to the league by the Jan. 31 deadline.
Mayor Barry issued a statement to The Tennessean after the news was initially reported. She told the paper that “no formal proposals or deals have been reached,” but that her administration has been working with the Ingram and Hagerty’s group and supports their efforts to bring MLS to Tennessee.
“Ultimately, a soccer facility will be needed in order to attract an MLS team here to Nashville," she said. "I believe a private-public partnership, with an emphasis on the 'private' part of the equation, will be needed in order to accomplish this goal, and I am convinced that the best and only site for this to happen would be at the Fairgrounds Nashville.
“This will not come at the expense of any existing activities at the fairgrounds, such as racing, the flea market, or the fair, but will be in addition to all the great things that are happening there now."
“We appreciate Mayor Barry’s support for Major League Soccer in Nashville as well as the support of the city’s business, civic and sports communities," Clint Brewer, a spokesman for the Nashville MLS Steering Committee, said in a statement. "Nashville has a long history of successful private-public partnerships, and we look forward to working with Mayor Barry and the community to find a win-win for Nashville.”